Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Review: GreenFaith

Book Review:
GreenFaith by Fletcher Harper

Fletcher Harper’s GreenFaith: Mobilizing God’s People to Save the Earth provides a wonderful resource for understanding the importance of caring for God’s creation, and our common home, that God has both made and proclaimed “good.” Through powerful biblical exegesis, awe-filled personal experience, environmental teachings from various religious traditions, and groundbreaking science, this much-needed and diverse text presents a valuable tool for faithful-living in this time of ecological crisis. We have all had experiences in God’s world that shook us—experiences that were sublime, moving, or indescribable. Harper draws on these universal experiences, allowing their power and significance to form the foundation for a much deeper conversation about the future of our world and our moral commitment to its holistic health.

 In addition, readers learn through GreenFaith that there is a strong theological foundation to support the care of God’s earth. Through thoughtful readings of the creation stories in Genesis, Harper provides readers with a new and biblically sound understanding of their ancient beginning—rooted in the care of the earth and a reverence for its creatures. Harper then moves to other passages from the Old Testament, illuminating moments in various books that contribute to our theological environmental ethic. Finally, he examines the life of Jesus and the many ways in which Christ’s actions and words speak to his care for all of God’s world.

The ecological teachings of other religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism, are also considered in GreenFaith. We have much to learn and share when it comes to the care of God’s creation, and in a time when division and fear are so palpable, we must come together with our brothers and sisters to do this important work.  Harper’s hopeful voice throughout GreenFaith provides a tone that encourages the reader not to be dismayed, but to embark on the journey of loving both people and place. Perfect for Sunday School classes, book studies, or personal reading, GreenFaith has something to offer each of us—from the environmental novice to the climate scientist.

Sarah Ogletree is a second year Divinity Student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and a graduate of the the Sustainable Development program at Appalachian State University. She has worked closely with organizations like the United Methodist Women and the Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina to establish relationships between communities of faith and movements of environmental justice. Sarah hopes to become a resource to both the church and her community regarding faith-based climate action and social justice advocacy. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Earth is the Lord's--Not Ours to Wreck

A Biblical, Bold and Beautiful New Imperative 
from a Sister Denomination

On July 3, the United Church of Christ (UCC) passed A Resolution of Witness,“The Earth is the Lord's--Not Ours to Wreck: Imperatives for a New Moral Era,” calling on clergy to preach and congregations and persons of faith to set a moral example to protect God’s creation. Presbyterians for Earth Care affirms the concept of this UCC statement and emphasizes it as a model.  

Photo taken by Dan Hazard, at the United
Church of Christ General Synod 31 in Baltimore. 
The statement of the UCC notes that "God's great gift of in crisis... The scale of Creation's demise is dramatically expanding beyond our comprehension. Never has the earth and the climate changed so quickly. While the leaders of every country in the world recognize this reality, our current Administration ignores science, defunds the Environmental Protection Agency, and withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord." The UCC  is sending out a call for "a new moral era."

They note that leaders of over 190 countries have signed the Paris Climate Accord and that "mayors of 30 American cities, the governors of numerous states and leaders of hundreds of American companies have publicly committed the institutions they lead to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in compliance with the Paris Climate Accord..."

They then resolve to initiate their "new moral era" and 
1.    "Let our clergy accept the mantle of moral leadership...
2.    Let all of us incarnate the changes we long for...[and] 
3.    Let us proclaim truth in the public square"

Truly bold is their statement that we must hold to the truth, recognizing that truth can and is being compromised. They call for commitment "to resist all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and demand new sources of renewable energy that are accessible to all communities."

Let us truly have ears to hear and courage to join with our sisters and brothers in this Resolution of Witness. Let us pray, join hands and stand resolute in the truth we know that creation is a sacred gift, this earth is our home, and God is leading us to care for and stand in Faithful Resistance in this new Moral Era. 

Diane Waddell
PEC Moderator

(The PEC Advocacy Committee and Steering Committee feel this is a very important document and are currently discerning ways to create a similar statement. We all need each other's prayers.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July EARTH-Keeper

EARTHKeeper – Barry McPherson
By Jenny Holmes

What inspired you to go into fish and wildlife management? 
I was born and raised in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains by Mono Lake, a large saline lake in the high desert east of Yosemite National Park.  Trout fishing was very popular and a big summer tourist industry, but not in saline Mono Lake.  Inspired by a high school biology teacher, I majored in Zoology at UC Santa Barbara. I returned to my beloved Eastern Sierra each summer. In my junior year, I switched from pumping gas and selling fishing tackle to being a technician at a US Fish & Wildlife Service trout research field lab. I was inspired and mentored by wonderful fish scientists and by our work in the nearby lakes and streams, some of them 10,000 - 11,000 ft. above sea level. The phrase “Boy, we’re up here in God’s Country now!” was stated often.

After receiving my MS in Fisheries, from Oregon State I started a 29-year career with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in research and then fishery management.

As Co-Chair of the Cascades Presbytery Eco-Justice Team, what have been some of the most meaningful experiences and projects?
My efforts to get people outdoors into God’s Creation through the Eco-Justice Team have been very meaningful to me.  My favorites were kayak trips in a coastal wetland on the central coast of Oregon.  It took a lot of help from other members of the Team to organize and conduct these trips which started with devotional readings and discussions over sack lunches in nearby churches.

As Co-Chair of the Team, I found great meaning and reward in shepherding a Resolution on Expansion of Coal Exports to Asia through the Presbytery of the Cascades process to win approval in March 2013. The resolution directed the Eco-Justice Team, and encouraged congregations, to advocate for full disclosure about the impact of expanded coal exports on the most vulnerable among us, including those in communities throughout the United States and abroad, and to request that adequate information be generated for review by the public.  The Team distributed copies of the resolution to the Oregon Governor and Congressional Delegation with requests that they agree and act accordingly at their governmental level.  In 2014 I went to General Assembly in Detroit as an Overture Advocate to win GA adoption of an overture calling for Programmatic Review of the Impact of Expanded Coal Export Projects on Human Health and Well Being.  A very meaningful result of adoption of this overture was a May 2015 letter from the GA Stated Clerk Grayde Parsons to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging denial of a permit for a proposed coal export terminal in Puget Sound, WA. The permit was denied and the Lummi Nation expressed gratitude to the PC(USA) for the assistance provided by this letter.

You are guiding a hike on the Fish Pond Trail at Menucha during PEC's Spirit of the Salmon Environmental Justice Immersion on September 25 and 26 in the Columbia Gorge. What do you hope that people who participate come away with? 
I hope that participants will come away with a greater appreciation of the beauty, complexity, and importance of God’s Creation, some threats to its well-being, and a renewed or expanded interest in doing things that will protect and sustain the Creation.  I hope they will also experience moments of peace and awe in the experience of hearing, smelling, seeing, and touching Creation in this unique landscape.

Jenny Holmes lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband John and dog Verda. She is coordinating the 2017 PEC Conference Coordinator and is a past PEC moderator. She also works for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliances as the WA-OR Field Organizer and is former Environmental Ministries Director for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

Karen Keady Enriches Conference Worship with Art

Creator, the Created, and Creating:
Art at Blessing the Waters of Life

By Karen M. Keady, McKenzie Watershed

My favorite conferences are those that find simple ways to address a complex issue in as many modes and voices as possible, all for the purpose of sharing our interests and generating ideas and willpower to make God’s world a better and more just place. Add a breathtakingly beautiful setting at a cultural crossroad, and you have this September’s PEC conference at Menucha on the Columbia River Gorge near Corbett, Oregon. Blessing the Waters of Life takes place in a natural setting so dramatic that just arriving moves visitors to awe and thankfulness. Reflection and contemplation happen almost without effort.

My part in this year’s conference is to consider what role art plays in such a gathering. Its potential is immense. Still, art opportunities arouse mixed responses, possibly because art disrupts our thought habits. It challenges our understanding. Art is mind-opening and empowering. Making art helps us build an authentic faithful voice. Our artworks, particularly our most humble efforts, create bridges of possibility between what is and what might be, what we do, and what we might do. As Presbyterian pastor Theresa Cho writes, “Art is a powerful tool to open up the minds of people to the impossible possibilities that God has in store for our faith community, our world, and us."

Art enriches worship when it inspires faithful community. The worship space at Menucha will have a waterfall of interwoven fabrics by artist Nan Helsabeck of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Eugene, Oregon. Nan works in many media, and specializes in wearable and worship-space liturgical art. This art piece will represent the complex currents of humanity and spirit that flow through our relationships with water. Symbolic art may not change the world, but it can change us and empower us to faithful change. Participants will have opportunities to give and take blessings from the waterfall, as we do from the water that flows through our lives.

We’re planning plenty of creative responses during worship time and free time. These will inspire you to reflect, take action, think creatively. Use them to enrich your own experience—to play and build community, to be quiet and open to the still, small voice of God. Experiment with ideas to share with others.

Theresa Cho writes that art is a communal process that invites all to add their fingerprints and self-expression to mark a specific moment and context in time. If you haven’t registered for Blessing the Waters of Life, do it now Come add your faithful voice and give and receive the blessing of water.

Karen Keady is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Eugene, Oregon. She is ordained as a deacon and a ruling elder, serves as an occasional fill-in worship leader in local congregations, works with Christian education programs and liturgical season contemplative activities and with Westminster’s Creation Care group. She is currently researching and writing about arts ministry.
In addition to opportunities for artmaking, time at the conference at Menucha will also offer places to contemplate the beauty of nature.

Barbara Rossing is PEC Conference Keynote

Unexpected Connections
By Holly Hallman

A paper was expected in the environmental ethics class at my seminary and I was casting about for a theological support of an investigation into whether or not Just Coffee was “fair” to the people and land, if grown in countries where it had never been a crop.  My professor suggested looking in the Book of Revelation.  I sputtered and ranted about my understanding of that book given my Southern Baptist roots and how the last book of the Bible was the final and biggest scare-you-to-death story.  She told me to go find Rossing. I headed straight for the library, fuming, cussing silently, and certain I would find nothing good.  I quickly changed my mind!  Rossing, (Barbara Rossing ThD., professor of New Testament at Lutheran School of Theology Chicago) explains Revelation as a story of the earth—the one we are lovingly housed in at the start of Genesis.  Barbara tells about our relationship to that first and last Biblical encounter with the land God created.  Up until then, if someone asked if I loved the Bible, I would cross my fingers and say “yes”.  It was almost true—if you left off the last book.

Years later I was sitting in an Earth Ministry group.  We were introducing ourselves and telling where we lived.  A woman on the other side of the circle said she was Barbara Rossing.  I ducked down, got out my smart phone and looked for a photo of the author I had loved so long ago.  It was HER!  I was a bit star-struck but in a few minutes of conversation we found many connections and had much to discuss.

I am beyond excited that she is going to be the keynote speaker at our September conference ( She shares some of her thoughts with us below:

The heart of the message of Revelation is not that God plans to destroy our world, but rather that God wants to heal. Healing in Revelation comes not directly from God but from the leaves of a tree, from creation. The tree of life is an image common to Christianity, Judaism, Islam and many other religious traditions.

As we face crises such as global warming, the question for us is this: How can we take to heart that healing tree and its medicinal leaves today? How can we reclaim our ecological and spiritual vision for planet earth to be shaped not by Armageddon and war, but by a healing vision for our world?

It is interesting that the notion of a ‘‘shared vision’’ is a technical term for one element of the work of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen. Under the Bali Action Plan, nations of the world must agree on what it calls a ‘‘shared vision’’ for long-term cooperative action to ‘‘ensure the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention.’’ This shared vision is to include a ‘‘long-term global goal for emission reductions.’’

The Book of Revelation also offers a shared vision for the healing of the polis, the healing of our common life.  Revelation’s vision of God’s life-giving river in the center of our cities can give a shared vision that will motivate churches and faith communities to make the changes necessary for our healing.

The Book of Revelation can help us in the ways it calls upon people to live as citizens of God’s New Jerusalem even now, right in the heart of empire. Revelation’s glimpses of a renewed earth can inspire and motivate us to undertake the exodus journey out of the unsustainable ways of empire and to live as citizens of God’s renewed world. It is not too late. As Patriarch Bartholomew prayed, ‘‘May God grant us the wisdom to act in time.’’

[originally printed in "God Laments with Us: Climate Change, Apocalypse and the Urgent Kairos Moment," in The Ecumenical Review, Volume 62, Number 2,  July 2010, 129.]

Holly Hallman lives in the Pacific Northwest among the foxgloves and next to the waters of Puget Sound.  She, and husband Fred, grow great radishes that they hope to eat with fresh crab—soon.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Ministry in the Time of Climate Change

Convergence of Diverse Faith Leaders and Activists in NYC
by Sue Smith

Rev. Robin Blakeman, PEC member, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Organizer, WV Presbytery Stewardship of Creation Ministry Team leader and WV Interfaith Power and Light Steering Committee member recently attended “Ministry in the Time of Climate Change: Multi-Faith Perspectives and Practical Training” at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with her to talk about her experience.
It sounds like this experience was meaningful and exciting. You say that you had high expectations going in, and those expectations were exceeded. What contributed to that?

This was the most powerful conference I have ever been to. It could be earth shaking in its ripple effects. There was so much energy throughout the conference. Both speakers and participants were powerful and brought so many aspects to fighting climate change. There were people from many faith traditions: Buddhists, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Hindus to name some. There were Native Americans. There were academics, lawyers, UN representation, and NAACP representation. The conference was sponsored by the Center for Earth Ethics and The Climate Reality Project. Former Vice President Al Gore presented and participated with us throughout the entire conference.
To get a taste of what the presentations were like, one of the sessions can be viewed on YouTube.

What is Al Gore talking about these days?
He has revised and updated the Climate Reality Project presentation, which he shared with us. There is a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, coming out in July. Take a look at the trailer.
He reminded us that storytelling is as important a part of our work as anything. We must tell where our story meets the climate story.

With so much to take in, does anything you heard stand out?
Cheryl Ann Angel, an indigenous leader of the Lakota Nation, was one of the most powerful speakers. She helped to initiate and maintain the Standing Rock camp, and has been vital in the non-violent resistance to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. My takeaway: “When all spiritual people become activists and all activists become spiritual, we will win.” She urged us to not sit on the sidelines; we have to stand our ground, and join in ceremony with all who will participate. We all need to protect the waterways that we depend on for life, because they are all under attack. While many Native voices invited us into their community, they challenged us to stand on the front lines in whatever way we are capable of – be it organizing, speaking, writing, dancing or singing.

Sue Smith is Vice Moderator of PEC and co-editor of EARTH. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

June EARTH-Keeper

EARTHKeeper for June – Dr. Kelly O’Hanley
The Joy of Making “Holy Trouble”

By Jenny Holmes

Why would an accomplished physician and teacher try to stop a hulking icebreaker ship headed to drill in the artic with her body and a little kayak? For Dr. Kelly O’Hanley, making “Holy Trouble” was just the right thing to do, and a calling. And, she says “I have had more fun than a barrel of monkeys.”

Kelly O'Hanley giving testimony at a hearing on the proposed Longview, WA coal terminal

In late July 2015, Shell Oil’s Fennica icebreaker departed from a dry dock in Portland. Climate activists attuned to how local industries are entangled in fossil fuel extraction quickly prepared the “Shell No!” action that became an international media event. The ship was blocked for two days. First, a group of about 60 “kayaktivists” created a blockade in the Willamette River. They were then joined by Greenpeace activists who dangled themselves from the graceful St. John’s Bridge.  The kayakers did not know they were coming so it was a thrill to be joined by the 13 dangling from the bridge with their colorful banners. O’Hanley and her kayak partner stayed on the river until they were dragged out by the Coast Guard. They were then hauled up the river and dropped off on the shore without their paddles adding new meaning to “being up a creek without a paddle.”

Kelly O’Hanley’s interest in the environment was not new, but resistance and direct action were. She considered her work in ob-gyn and International Public Health one solution to environmental degradation.  After screening An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore at her church she became deeply concerned about global warming.

In retrospect, she feels that the film left us hanging without ideas for actions commensurate with the problem. “I tried to get my church to change light bulbs,” she said. It was clearly not enough. A few years later she attended a Greenpeace meeting and learned about civil disobedience. The opening question for one-on-one sharing was “Have you been arrested?” That got her attention.

She took more trainings on non-violent civil disobedience and began a rewarding journey. That journey has included leafleting, bird-dogging elected officials, flash-mobbing, lobbying, infiltrating political meetings, testifying at hearings, art-making, petitioning, laying on train tracks, peacekeeping at marches, speaking at rallies, teaching adult study, and more. She was active in influencing Portland City Council to oppose building any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Some of the lessons she’s learned include:
  • Kids are powerful advocates and are more aware and willing to be involved than we think.
  • Art, music and storytelling are vital to powerful communication.
  • Most of our power is local – and that power is far greater than most of us know.
  • A small group of committed people can move mountains.
  • Most activists are not necessarily Christians but they are deeply moral people.
  • Most Christians are not necessarily activists. Let’s change that!
  • We fear doing what we haven’t done before but getting over those fears is life changing.
  • Meeting and scheming in the name of climate feels like it might have felt during earliest days of the church.
O’Hanley wonders why, with so many avenues for action, are we so asleep, especially in the church when we know what global warming is doing to our planet. Jump in! The water is fine, and it will be an adventure with many companions on the way.

Photos by Rick Rappaport.

Jenny Holmes lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband John and dog Verda. She is coordinating the 2017 PEC Conference Coordinator and is a past PEC moderator. She also works for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliances as the WA-OR Field Organizer and is former Environmental Ministries Director for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. 

First Nations - Artistic Expressions

Artistic Expressions of
First Nations’ Eating and Wealth
by Judith Ann Richards

My husband Pete once remarked that he was a novice. I am also a novice, of the Alaska Native artistic culture, once removed!! Almost any Native Alaskan carver could call me out and state that I need to study a lot more. What I am able to recall from my late husband, is just that-- a recollection, so please accept my apology in advance for my errors.
The most important thing for First Nations people was survival. This explains how they came to view eating and celebrating as essentially life-giving. Eating is also a sign of wealth. Potlatches and sharing of goods in an abundant manner was a way of showing your wealth. The art was also a means of expressing what was/is important. 
The art and culture that my spouse studied with Alaskans and carvers, had a near reverence for cedar, both yellow and red. The early artists used colors that derived from natural earth elements: burned wood, graphite, flowers and sometimes eggs. Black and red often represented death and life respectively. Sometimes, that was a death of a plan or an idea. The shape was also important, such as the shape of the eye on a sea creature was to remind the observer of the life-giving salmon (egg).
The Rev. Judith Ann Richards of Underwood, WA is helping to plan worship for PEC's “Blessing the Waters of Life” conference and is a member of the PEC Eco-Justice Team. She was serving a church in Ketchikan, Alaska when her husband, a Presbyterian ruling elder, created these carvings. Harold "Pete" Richards, passed away in 2013. He was an educator who taught at the high school level. He loved to work with wood and loved God's Creation.  While in Ketchikan Alaska, he assisted and developed plans to repair many churches throughout Southwest Alaska. 
About the images: (clockwise from top left) Drums were an important part of story telling, and celebration. Painting the drum elevated the percussion instrument in acting out a story. Pair of dance rattles, a raven and eagle. A fish bowl. A greasebowl was filled with a fish oil that was wonderful for cooking, eating and showing of abundance. The inside rim was placed in the bowl to scrape off the spoon. All by Harold "Pete" Richards. 

Jean and Jim Strathdee, Conference Musicians

Sharing Their Story:
Jean and Jim Strathdee,
Conference Musicians 

We have been asked to write an article to share some experiences where our lives and ministry have intersected with issues of Earth care, First Nation tribes, and water.
An early “formative” story. We both grew up in different towns on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, a dramatically beautiful, high desert region. One thing that connects all the towns in this valley is the Los Angeles Aqueduct (completed in 1913). Through subterfuge, the City of LA took the water rights of the Owens Valley farmers and built a long “snake” (aqueduct) across the foothills of the Sierra, capturing the “run off” water and diverting the river water to quench the thirst of the growing San Fernando Valley, a suburb of LA. The economy of the Owens Valley was ruined. We grew up listening to the stories of families losing their fruit ranches ~ their trees, their crops. The city of LA hired a private militia to keep the farmers away from the construction. There was blood shed and people died. Jim went to school with Western Shoshone Paiute students who shared their life stories.
Our ministry. We were both raised in the church, with parents who stood for the marginalized ~ who cared about the earth. Our talents in music were welcomed by our faith communities. We found each other 45 years ago and have shared our passion for justice as we have written and sung, encouraging others to walk in beauty with each other and our Earth. In 1995, we, along with our son, Michael, created their Celebration for the Healing of the Earth ~ a multi-media project, built upon parts of the Christian mass, enhanced by the wisdom of many faiths, especially the Native American and Australian Aboriginal people. A favorite piece in this work is the “Sanctus” in which a choir of wolves and a choir of humans sing the “Holy, Holy, Holy” into the night.
Our work in 2016-17
Climate Vigil for United Methodist General Conference, Portland, OR. At this Global meeting of United Methodists, indigenous people from many continents shared their stories of how changing climate, and its social and political consequences are endangering their very survival. We created call and response chanting to weave into their testimonies. Elders of the Mindanao from the Philippines were powerful in their witness.
noDAPL rally in Auburn, CA. We did not join the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, but supported their amazing effort locally at an interfaith rally where we led more call and response singing. This rally included a blessing of the people who were on their way to North Dakota.

The chorus of Jim’s song ~
They drew a line in the sand,
said, here we make our stand.
You may come no further
to poison our water,
desecrate our land.
Here we stand together!
Heya, heya, heya ah-ho!
Heya, heya, heya ah-ho!
Here we stand together,
We stand and pray together!